Nature’s magnificence…

and coming back.

DSC_0446-Edit-2-Edit-3I wish that all of nature’s magnificence, the emotion of the land, the living energy of the place could be photographed.

Annie Leibovitz

This week has been a reminder of and an eye-opener to the scars that we bear.

This stand of trees still soars majestically skyward but bore not the brightly colored leaves of autumn, only blackened trunks and open wounds from the Kenow fire that swept through last year.

I find myself listening more and looking beyond the outer shells.

I find myself more willing to speak openly and wonder if that energy is being felt.

I find myself coming back.

One really big reason…

to follow your passion.

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To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.

Dorothea Lange

This blog post is number one hundred which for me feels like I’m just hitting my stride. For almost two years now I have been taking the time to look and think about one image and the process has been an interesting one for me.

I write a lot about passion and creativity and how to keep that flowing when so much in life can act as a roadblock.

I don’t often feel the need to write about the technical aspects of photography; you can already find enough about that online to keep you reading for a lifetime. The question that I’m asked about most is how to build creativity. My own experience would tell me that if you’re bored with or stagnant in your medium it might not be the right one for you.

The challenge as I see it lies in developing a creative zone that extends far beyond the reach of a camera. It’s rather like shovelling the sidewalk during a winter storm; doing it once is not enough. Steady, continuous work is needed to keep that path open.

Just like muscle memory that is developed while practicing a sport, you can develop a rhythm with your camera that allows you to focus on the subject matter if you make it a part of your daily routine.

Developing a rhythm is the first step towards developing a style. Choosing subject matter that inspires you makes it easier to pick up that camera on a daily basis.

For example, on my canine shoots I will go in knowing the feel that I want for the images but I will try not to have any preconceived ideas on how I will get that. Structure to me is the death of creativity. I know that this approach works for me because the instant that I start moving around and shooting I am in the zone and it doesn’t really matter if I’m photographing a dog, piece of sky, or a snowflake.

All of this doesn’t just happen though, it takes practice and a first important step is being comfortable with your equipment so that you can focus on the creative aspect.

Today’s image is of subject matter near and dear to my heart…dogs. During the past few weeks I have had the absolute pleasure of photographing several groups of dogs, in various life stages. The energy, connections with their owners, and sheer joy these animals showed was incredible.

Will my style of shooting appeal to everyone? Nope, there are those that would prefer a backdrop and a stiff dog with every hair sharply in focus. I wouldn’t be happy and in my zone capturing that type of image but there’s room for all types.

Once you figure out the answer to this question “I like to shoot images that are…” it helps to define that creative zone and allows you to build on it.

If you’re completely stuck answering that question spend some time looking at all mediums; online, at museums or galleries, and see what you are drawn to. Think about how you can infuse that feeling into your medium of choice. I’m not talking about copying, I’m talking about putting yourself into the medium, there’s a big difference.

Love to hear your experiences on developing creativity. What has worked for you?

Thank you to all who follow this blog, I so appreciate it.

And thank you to Earl, how gorgeous is he?

Atmosphere…

and creativity.

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Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.

Ansel Adams

Many years ago I had family portraits done with my husband and two mastiffs. I treasure that memory but can’t help thinking how sterile and posed the image is.

It was out of that thought that the idea to photograph dogs in their own environment, just being dogs, was born.

It’s a challenging adventure kind of like those cooking shows where you open up a box of ingredients and have to make something amazing out of it. In this instance though you’re handed dogs and whatever weather conditions the day brings, and from that you need to create a group of images that hopefully capture the spirit of those animals. It’s real and unscripted and each shoot is different from the one before.

I think of photography as a language from which you develop your own accent and cadence. It takes awhile to learn what that might look like for you but I believe that it can only be accomplished by diving in and shooting every day under all conditions.

It’s an incredibly creative medium and one that I think it’s essential to develop your own voice for.

Will everyone like your work? Certainly not but in time you will develop a style of shooting that becomes more distinctive to you and with that knowledge it becomes easier to take whatever photographic opportunities that come your way and make the most of them.

On this day the ground had a layer of frost and as the sun hit it, it began to steam giving me nature’s version of a smoke machine. I couldn’t have scripted that and it lent such a beautiful, soft atmosphere to the shoot.

Have you picked up your camera today? Maybe you should…

A little bad weather…

wasn’t enough to keep me away from this jagged peak..

Proton Arc and Aurora Borealis-“To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs,’ I respond, There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer.”

Ansel Adams

There’s something about the mountains that puts things into perspective and I don’t think that I will ever grow tired of looking at them.

There is such magic in capturing a moment that is only fleetingly visible.

This was one of those times on a recent trip to the Rocky Mountains in Canada. Rain, clouds, and fog can be a little more challenging to work around but they also provide opportunities like this one where a crack in the clouds revealed this peak still frosted with winter snow.

I like to find the unusual in a landscape. That might take a change of lens, direction, perspective, settings or all of the above.

If you’re not afraid of getting wet the rain seems to add a vibrancy to foliage and a simple trash bag with your lens poked through a hole in the bottom can keep your gear dry if it isn’t weather sealed.

Great photo opportunities can happen anytime under any conditions so don’t let a little weather or less than perfect light keep your camera in its bag…

The dragonfly…

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In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

Aristotle

A foot to the right and I might have stepped on him. I love the mornings when the landscape is covered in dew. It’s rather like looking for a needle in a haystack but I set out into the pasture to look for this shot and there he was, clinging to a blade of grass.

They are very vulnerable until their wings dry and every so often he would flutter them to shake off more dew.

It’s the tiny moments like this that I enjoy…truly something of the marvelous!

On inspiration…

whose work are you inspired by?

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A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.

Richard Avedon

Why don’t you take pictures of people? 

I sometimes get criticized, and perhaps that’s too strong of a word, maybe admonished is better, for not photographing people but that just isn’t where my passion lies. I find it challenging to break through the veneers that most of us wear and lose patience with the process of trying to capture that. Put a dog in front of me though and time stands still.

I find this a little ironic considering how much I admire the work of Richard Avedon and how his minimalist style always managed to reveal so much character.

I think an important part of growing as an artist is not just learning the technical skills behind it but figuring out what really moves you. I like to look at other art forms in addition to photography and see which ones resonate with me and why.

This information can begin to affect your shooting style.

This information can be taken and developed into something of your own.

There is a distinction to be made between outright copying a style and making it your own. Derivative work, changing just one or two things like perhaps the color or a slight perspective change, does not make it your own; I think one needs to consciously go beyond that.

I tend to shoot more black and white than I do color but occasionally when I find myself drawn to color it is usually because there is something in that scene that reminds me of that wonderful painter, Wolf Kahn. I fell in love with his landscapes the moment that I saw the first one.

Alfred Stieglitz, will always be my first love. His painterly style of photography inspires me to this day.

Michael Kenna’s photography has such simplicity and clarity to it. It reminds me to pay attention to composition first and foremost.

Photography today has changed so much in that now almost everyone is walking around with a camera and we are inundated with imagery. Now more than ever I think it is important to ruthlessly edit our own work and be more conscious of how and why we are taking a photograph.

Is there someone who inspires you?  I would love to hear who that is and why…

Poor girl…

out shooting in the harsh sunlight.

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There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself; for what we see is what we are.

Ernst Haas

I admit to getting a bit of perverse enjoyment out of strolling along, tripod in hand, in the heat of the day with sun overhead.

I see the looks and can almost hear the thoughts…poor girl, she doesn’t know that this is the worst possible light to shoot under. Hasn’t she heard about the golden hour?

But when I start to lose that glorious low angle light of winter I switch it up and pull out the infrared; and for that the light could not be better!

Composition is very critical in these shots and that is something that I am always playing with. I use a hoya filter, not a converted camera to capture these shots so they do require some planning. Most of them are shot with exposures of around 30 seconds.

These shots capture the light that is not visible to us: it is the near infrared. I always shoot in raw, although jpeg may be a little easier to edit especially when starting out.

Focus is a bit of a challenge as it is not the same as visible light. I focus and compose without the filter and then adjust the focus after attaching the filter. Likewise white balance is tricky and I create profiles to use in Lightroom for the imported raw infrared files. These profiles create a good starting point with more room for adjustment.

Lastly there are options for creating “false color” by swapping color channels but for me more often the beauty of infrared lies in the black and white conversion.

Ultimately this is about keeping your options open and seizing each opportunity to photograph.

Develop some skills to cover all light conditions. That way when you have the time to shoot, it won’t require that you wait for the perfect light.